ALUMS MAKE THEIR MARK IN THE COMMUNITY.
Just up Hwy. 163 from Pella is Des Moines, a city that’s been racking up the accolades as a great place to live and work. This thriving metro area is home to thousands of Central College alumni — many of whom are known as movers and shakers in the area. Central grads are leading in Des Moines — filling top roles in companies and serving with community organizations to make the area an even better place to live.
NETWORKING GURU WITH A SENSE OF FASHION
Danny Beyer ’04 is many things — father, husband, salesman, Young Professional of the Year, Forty Under 40 honoree. But he may be best known around Des Moines as the “bow tie guy.” Beyer is famous in the metro area for his neckwear, which began with a spur-of-the moment shopping trip in 2012.
“I texted one of my close friends and asked her if she thought I could pull off a bow tie,” he says. “She texted back immediately, ‘yes you need to cancel your lunch plans we’re going shopping.’ I stood in Younkers for an hour watching a YouTube video on how to tie a bow tie.” Beyer started a Facebook page called Bow Tie Wednesdays, and today he wears them Monday through Friday. “No one ever forgets the guy in the bow tie,” he says.
But Beyer is known in Des Moines for more than his penchant for bow ties. He works for Kabel Business Services as a payroll sales executive, selling payroll outsourcing systems that help companies become more streamlined. In addition to his day job, Beyer is heavily involved with the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, serving as secretary on the executive board. It was joining the Chamber that helped him get started with another of his passions — networking. In 2012 he graduated from the West Des Moines Leadership Academy, and a featured speaker at graduation gave Beyer the push he needed to start speaking publicly about networking.
“I had always been interested in public speaking but didn’t have the confidence,” Beyer says. “That was in January of 2014, and since that time I’ve given between 35 and 40 presentations.”
Beyer speaks on the value of networking and building relationships. He is a networking fiend, regularly posting on Twitter and Facebook. He’s even written a book on the subject. “The Ties that Bind: Networking with Style” was released this winter. But he also recognizes the importance of face-to-face contact.
“Networking to me isn’t going to an event and collecting 50 business cards and talking to a bunch of stuffy guys in suits,” he says. “Networking for me is done almost every day whenever individuals talk, whenever they exchange ideas. Whether it’s at the grocery store or at the movies, that’s all networking to me.”
Beyer finds the Des Moines area a great place to meet people and practice his networking skills. “You’re not going to find a community as open as Des Moines. You can email or call the CEOs of major companies in this town, and they will meet you at Caribou Coffee and tell you about themselves. They’ll introduce you to others,” he says.
While at Central, majoring in communication studies, Beyer didn’t have plans to make Des Moines his home. The Monroe native worked at Hy-Vee part time and completed the management training program after graduation. “I assumed I’d be a store director someday,” he says. But he eventually decided he wanted to move out of retail, so he and wife Kasey (Hays) ’06, his college sweetheart, moved to West Des Moines.
Today, the couple has two children and Beyer says his top focus is making sure his family is happy and healthy. Des Moines provides a good place to raise his family — “the education system is incredible,” he says. He sees lots of potential in Des Moines for young people looking to leave their mark.
While at Central, Beyer learned many of the skills that have enabled him to succeed. Being part of the Theta Kappa Alpha fraternity showed him how to put on a good event, a skill he still uses today. “We did a bunch of social things, throwing parties, doing volunteer events, and it helped pave the way for a lot of the networking that I do now. Being in the fraternity got me out of my box and made it a lot easier for me to talk to people I don’t know,” he says. In 2012, Beyer and a friend held the first Bow Tie Ball to raise money for Variety – the Children’s Charity of Iowa. Beyer envisions the possibility of spinning off the Bow Tie Charity to become an independent organization.
Last winter was a busy one for Beyer, as he was named to the 2014 Business Record Forty Under 40 and 2013 Amy Jennings Young Professional of the Year. He says the celebrity has been a good thing, opening doors for him to meet with people around town. He says, “The day after the announcement came out for YP of the Year I was meeting with CEOs of local companies because they wanted to get to know me.” In those meetings, Beyer’s liberal arts background made the difference in connecting with others. “I love the liberal arts education because I can talk to just about anybody about anything,” he says. “It prepares you to have those basic conversations with business owners.”
So keep an eye out around Des Moines for the guy in the bow tie. He’s worth getting to know.
BRINGING THE ENERGY
To say Jana Daberkow Rieker ’94 is involved in Des Moines would provide only the smallest hint of what she accomplishes. Since 2010, she’s held the position of vice president of sales and marketing at Bankers Trust. But she also has her hand in a variety of community organizations, including an initiative to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) across the state.
After graduation from Central, Rieker went on to earn an M.B.A. degree at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. She’s worked for some of Des Moines’ marquee companies, such as The Des Moines Register, Meredith Corp. and now Bankers Trust. In addition, she has served on the boards of various organizations, including Kingdom Cares International, Employee and Family Resources and West Des Moines Girls Softball. In September, she was appointed co-chairperson of Million Women Mentors — Iowa, for STEM. The initiative, headed by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, works to promote the mentoring of young women in STEM fields.
The cause is personal for Rieker, who first started coaching students in STEM through an experience at her own child’s school. She helped to coach students in accelerated math for whom English was a second language. The experience led to her current work with Million Women Mentors.
Oh yeah, she also teaches kickboxing at the YMCA, attends the many school and sporting events of her children, ages 10 and 13, and finds time for the occasional quick getaway with her husband. Most days, Rieker’s morning begins at 4:30 a.m., and by 5 a.m. she’s at the Y in front of a class.
Where does she find the energy? “I’ve had people at the YMCA tell me I’ve literally changed their lives. Whether it’s a kickboxing class, or muscle building or core, for people to give that kind of feedback inspires me to want to give more,” she says.
Giving back is second nature to Rieker. The Harlan native is another example of a Des Moines-area professional who finds fulfilment in reaching out, in being connected, in doing more. Volunteering runs through the veins of many of Des Moines’ most prominent citizens, and it’s something integral to the fiber of the city. It’s a way of life she experienced at Central, where she was a double major in business and English.
“There are opportunities (in Des Moines) for people to get involved and volunteer and give of their time, and that is a great platform for networking from a business perspective,” Rieker says. “I’ve met so many people outside of my career that are willing to give of their time and support others in career growth. That’s something that’s unique about Des Moines.”
During her career, Rieker has seen firsthand the opportunities the Des Moines area provides, especially for recent graduates. She says it’s a place where people come together to support each other.
“While working with Meredith Corp., I got to spend time in some of the major markets, Chicago, New York, L.A., and it always felt like you were a village of one in those big cities, and in Des Moines I never felt that,” she says.
Rieker wasn’t set on Des Moines during her college years, but an internship brought her to the city. She believes internships are a great way to learn about a career and get a foot in the door while in school, but she says students need to actively seek them out. She says that while “it’s up to the individual student to take the initiative,” she also believes “Central provides students the skill set to be networkable here in Des Moines.”
Rieker completed two internships in Des Moines while at Central, one in retail and one in golf and business. She learned a lot about business through those experiences and through her classes at Central. “A business degree you can get anywhere. How to use the business degree to incorporate it into making good decisions is something that I learned at Central,” she says. “I got to be part of clubs; I had leadership roles within a small campus that I don’t think I would have gotten everywhere.”
Today, Rieker is leading in many areas — business, service, family. By doing so, she fits in well in Des Moines, where she says “giving back is an expectation.”
EDUCATION YIELDS SUCCESS
While at Central, Ryan Fick ’02 learned he is a finance guy. He likes digging into the data and crunching the numbers to find out what makes companies tick. As a freshman, the business management major wasn’t sure what his career path should look like or what types of jobs would best suit him. But classes at Central sharpened the focus on what had been an indistinct image.
“At Central the classes that piqued my interest the most centered on finance and investing, and then through an internship I was able to learn more about what that looked like on a day-to-day basis,” he says. Fick “just fell in love” with the professional opportunities he saw in the finance field.
Today, he is putting his talents to use with The Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, making decisions that impact millions of dollars. After college, Fick went to work for Aviva Investors as an analyst, and he also obtained an M.B.A. degree. He joined Principal Global Investors in 2012 as a senior high yield analyst. Fick works with the fixed-income arm of The Principal as an analyst with high yield bonds. “I research companies and work with the fund managers to allocate capital for the $8 billion that we manage for various clients,” he says. “I’ll look at the financials of companies, meet with the management teams to learn more about their businesses, what their strategy is and how they want to run their business, and determine whether or not it’s a good investment for our clients.”
It can be a fast-paced environment, but Fick finds it fascinating. He especially values the opportunity to work with colleagues around the world. “I love working for a global organization. I have members of my team that are in New York, in Europe, so we have truly a global footprint,” he says.
That’s one of the things Fick loves about Des Moines — he’s able to truly live as a global citizen and work for a high-powered company, while at the same time focusing on his family and volunteer work. Like so many of Des Moines’ best and brightest, Fick is heavily involved with community organizations.
Fick believes this attitude has to do with “the roots that many of us were raised with for taking ownership of the lives of those around us and ensuring the community is the place we want it to be for our kids when they grow up.”
He works with the United Way of Central Iowa, including the organization’s Education Leadership Initiative, which focuses on serving middle school youth by impressing on them the importance of education and making good life choices. Fick also spends time with another organization, Backyard Boyz, that targets middle school-age students. Backyard Boyz provides after-school programming and other events, again with a focus on education. Fick says volunteers partner with the boys through middle school, which can be an “impressionable time.”
He calls it a blessing to be able to see boys he worked with in middle school now starting college, many as first-generation students. “It’s powerful for me to see the cycle of poverty give way to the opportunities that an education provides,” he says.
For his own education, Fick fell in love with Central while visiting from his hometown of Rock Rapids. “It felt like home from the time I set foot on campus,” he says. He decided to major in business management with an emphasis in finance and a minor in accounting, and he credits Central professors with pushing him to excel.
“Central had professors that challenged me in the classroom and pointed me on the path to making a difference in the community, ensuring I wasn’t just going through the motions in my career but that I was pushing myself to the highest levels possible,” Fick says.
Even though his career is flourishing, Fick maintains a work-life balance, which is an aspect of Des Moines many professionals cherish. In addition to working and volunteering, he spends plenty of family time with his wife (Central grad Amber [Van Wyk] ’02) and son. Overall, he counts himself blessed to combine a job he loves with a city that has a great way of life.
Fick says, “I think Des Moines just provides a great quality of living, and I think that’s defined by the people and by the state itself.”
BANKING ON DES MOINES
Kim Huitink Butler ’86 never meant to make banking her career. Nor did she plan on attending Central College. But sometimes things fall into place in ways that we can’t imagine.
While in high school at West Sioux Community Schools in northwest Iowa, Butler planned to attend the University of Iowa. She scheduled a visit day to Iowa City, and her church’s minister suggested she stop off for a visit to Central. His comment was serendipitous: “I had a great tour, fell in love with Central and ended up there,” Butler says.
Today, Butler is managing director at The PrivateBank, where she focuses on commercial banking. She has worked in this space her entire career, starting with an internship after her junior year at Central. At the time, the business management major was a new mother and a full-time student, so the prospect of a paying internship held promise, though banking was “not on my radar” she says. “It sounded like a good way to get some experience and generate a little income for my family, so I applied for this internship in banking and 30 years later, here I am,” she says.
The internship was with Hawkeye Bancorporation in Des Moines, and the company offered Butler a job after graduation. She felt fortunate. After all, it was the ‘80s, the Farm Crisis was in full swing, and jobs weren’t easy to come by. The position came with another perk: Butler was happy she wouldn’t have to sell anything.
Today, she finds the memory of her fear of sales amusing. “I didn’t have that frame of reference about banking,” she says. Her job focuses on selling The PrivateBank’s services, though she says it’s very different from how most people think of sales.
“You become a trusted adviser for your clients, so it’s more consultative selling,” she says. “It’s not bringing out the widget of the week.”
Looking at Butler’s resume, it seems she’s worked for a variety of different banks in Des Moines, but in fact, due to banking mergers and acquisitions, it’s really only been a few. Her first employer, Hawkeye Bank, was acquired by Mercantile Bank, which was acquired by Firstar Bank. Butler then went to work for U.S. Bank and started the company’s commercial banking platform in Iowa. One year later, Firstar acquired U.S. Bank, and she left to work for La Salle Bank. But the consolidation wasn’t over, and seven years later La Salle was sold to Bank of America.
The PrivateBank, which was looking to start a commercial banking platform, hired Butler and her commercial banking team. Today Butler’s work involves business development and acquiring new clients. She says the commercial banking industry typically doesn’t have a lot of women in senior roles, but mentors in her life have helped provide the inspiration to succeed in the field.
She counts Jann Freed ’77, professor emerita at Central, among her most important mentors. “I was a bit of a nontraditional student, having been a mom for at least two years of my college experience. Jann Freed in particular mentored me and guided me along to make sure I had the resources I needed,” Butler says.
Today, Butler is passing along that help, working with kids through Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa. She’s been on the organization’s board for 11 years and likes that it serves children “right in our own backyard.”
“To the extent that it can lift any one of those children up and show them the opportunities that exist, we’re all better for it. It raises all of us up,” she says.
Growing up in rural Iowa, Butler’s parents were very involved in the community, an example she still holds onto. She says, “I think it makes our community a better place to work and to live if everybody rolls up their sleeves and pitches in. It makes it a richer place for all of us.”
Des Moines has afforded lots of opportunities to get involved, says Butler, especially in leadership roles. She has served on a number of boards, including Variety – the Children’s Charity of Iowa, American Cancer Society, Youth Emergency Services and Shelter and the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. She was honored as one of the Des Moines Business Record’s 2011 Women of Influence.
While living and working in the Des Moines area may not have been an intentional career path at first for Butler, she loves her job and her city. “I enjoy my clients and advocating for them to help them meet their financial objectives,” she says. “Des Moines is a great place to live, raise a family and have a career.”